Preparing the way of the Lord: Fife parish embraces Advent

  • Written by Michelle Bruno
  • Published in Local
Facing a busy street in Fife, the Nativity scene at St. Martin of Tours Parish is illuminated for all to see. Assembling the scene takes parishioners about two hours. Photo: Michelle Bruno Facing a busy street in Fife, the Nativity scene at St. Martin of Tours Parish is illuminated for all to see. Assembling the scene takes parishioners about two hours. Photo: Michelle Bruno

FIFEIn the near-freezing temperatures and light rain of early December, Jim Allen and other parishioners at St. Martin of Tours in Fife processed by candlelight to mark the “Mysteries of the Nativity.”

Led by their pastor, Father Michael Radermacher, the group stopped at five different locations around the parish campus for a Scripture reading and meditation before processing in song to the next stop. The journey starts with the prophet Isaiah’s announcement of the Savior’s coming and concludes with the Magi worshipping the baby Jesus.

Allen said walking through these mysteries Dec. 3 in the cold and rain made it easier to understand how Mary and Joseph must have felt when looking for shelter, and how people in need feel today. “There are people living in the streets, in their car, trying to save up for a motel for a night or two,” he said. “It’s there and people want to deny it. But it’s there.”

Christmas star
This 15-foot-high star has graced the steeple St. Martin of Tours Parish every Advent and Christmas season for 30 years. Photo: Michelle Bruno

The Mysteries of the Nativity — adapted from the Knights of Columbus brochure, “Journey to the Inn: An Advent Celebration” and based on the traditional Mexican Las Posadas observance — is among the new Advent activities offered at the Fife parish this year.

St. Martin’s is a diverse parish and “we want to provide an opportunity for families of different cultures to share their traditions,” Father Radermacher said. “Advent is a great experience to come together.”

Allen, who has been a St. Martin’s parishioner for almost 60 years, pronounced the Mysteries of the Nativity “a really great addition” to the parish’s Advent repertoire.

That includes the 30-year-old tradition of blessing the outdoor Nativity scene and lighting the 15-foot-high star on the steeple of the church, which sits in a prominent location not far from Interstate 5. The life-size Nativity figures were crafted in 1985 by members of the parish’s social action committee, who covered wire frames with papier-mache and protected them with marine paint. Allen built the manger and the 12-by-8 stable surrounding the figures. This year, the blessing and star lighting were incorporated into the Mysteries of the Nativity.

The parish’s Advent celebrations are intended for all ages, said Terri Nido, pastoral assistant for children and youth ministries. “There’s something for everybody, whether there’s a large crowd or just a few,” she said.

In late November, families gathered to create Advent wreaths for their homes. Nido said Father Radermacher cut wood rounds from a fallen Douglas fir, then drilled holes in each for Advent candles. While the parish youth group served hot apple cider and cookies, families used greenery cut from the parish property to complete their wreaths, which were blessed at Mass.

Advent wreath
Greenery from the parish property provided all the cuttings for the Advent wreath at St. Martin of Tours Parish in Fife. Photo: Terri Nido

When Father Radermacher was assigned to St. Martin’s two years ago, he brought another Advent tradition — the blessing of the manger straw. On the third Sunday of Advent, straw for the parish manger was blessed at Mass and parishioners were encouraged to take some to add to their Nativity scenes at home. After Mass, the high school youth group hosted a brunch and performed a pastorela, a Mexican tradition that tells the story of Jesus’ birth through the eyes of the shepherds journeying to Bethlehem.

On Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, parish second-graders served as readers at Mass and left roses in front of an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The parish had intended to bless a new stained-glass window of Our Lady of Guadalupe for its side chapel, but is still awaiting its arrival.

The last weekend of Advent will bring the blessing of expectant parents, another tradition Father Radermacher brought to St. Martin’s.

By participating in the parish’s Advent opportunities, he said, “we are joyfully awaiting the arrival of our Savior.”

Mysteries of the Nativity

  1. Isaiah announces the Savior’s coming (Isaiah 11:1-4; 35:3-6, 10)
  2. The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-36, 38)
  3. Mary and Joseph ask for shelter (Luke 2:1, 3-7)
  4. Announcement to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14)
  5. The Magi worship Jesus (Matthew 2:1-5, 9-11)